Mistreating Animals - at a Slaughterhouse?

Cambridge, MA. A Lenten reflection: I am surely not the only one who thought it sad, ironic, horrific, to read this weekend about "mistreatment of cows at the meat-packing plant." Some line had been crossed, and the normal slaughter of cows had given way to their mistreatment, apparently as some animals were sick, and had to be dragged to their deaths. Of course, we are a meat-eating culture. For all kinds of social reasons, ideas about health, and even by way of appeal to the rights of God-fearing people after the Flood, people insist on eating meat. Perhaps our economic order would collapse if we all became vegetarians (should that ever happen). But all such reasons for refusing to leave animals alone ought not cover over the fact of what a terrible slaughter it really is, the killing of animals to satisfy our hungers -- and unnecessary too, since surely there are very few of us who actually need animal products to live healthy lives. Yet society more or less ignores, rationalizes, cannot face up to the slaughter of animals. This is not the only way we evade unpleasant facts; random acts of violence against humans young and old only rarely gain our full attention, while systemic violence, so deeply engrossed in the normal divisions of our world into rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, insiders and outsiders, etc., seems almost natural to the way we live. So why sit up and take notice at the abuse of animals at the slaughterhouse? I’ve been a vegetarian well over thirty years now, so perhaps it is not surprising that I take notice when scandal at the slaughterhouse-- so ordinary -- becomes news for a weekend; or perhaps it is something about cattle, gentle animals which do no harm, but suffer endlessly to satisfying our need for beef. But it is also true that our hope for decency lies in our ability to be shocked somewhere in our lives, to take notice of some truly unacceptable violence, and refuse to say it is ok. Once we begin to notice and then to refuse to go along with any violent habit, we see the connections to other such strategies, other instances where yet once more we tolerate the intolerable, turn away and simply refuse to notice that things are not ok. Refusing not to notice takes enormous effort, since our lives push us toward neglect; we are too busy, hidden violence is too much a part of the ordinary way of our lives, it is too hard to stop and insist on doing things differently. So it makes sense that we learn to neglect the victims of violence, human but also animal, and get on with our lives. All the greater then must be our admiration for those who refuse to agree, to accept the bargain by which being-content and going-along pays off. I admire greatly those who have stood for decades against abortion, euthanasia, and spousal abuse, against racism and against our government’s systemic involvement in violence in Central America and elsewhere, and nowadays, against our seemingly unending war in Iraq and our dubious leadership in the sales of armaments worldwide; add to that list, I suggest, those who are steadfastly against the slaughter of animals, who refuse to see it as a human right to kill and eat animals, when most of us at least could live perfectly healthy lives without ever eating meat. Not that any of these issues is to be resolved simply or without exceptions. But the exceptions that entail the violation of life need to remain exceptions, and it is to resisters who persist in saying no to violence that our gratitude and admiration must be offered. If we think of their enduring witness, perhaps we will find the courage to stop tolerating the intolerable, even if taking notice demands of us that we change our lives. And if it can begin as simply as by taking notice of the very odd news that there is animal abuse in the slaughterhouse -- that’s a good way to begin. Or begin somewhere else; the main thing is to begin. Isn’t learning to pay attention and to reject the unacceptable part of what our Lenten discipline is about?
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9 years 10 months ago
This news reminded me of how removed we try to be from the realities - economic and otherwise - faced by most of the rest of the world. When I lived in the hills outside of Oaxaca in Mexico one summer, meat was an at most once a week treat, most often a chicken bought "on the hoof" at the local market. Dinner tastes a bit different when you've looked the main course in the eyes. Thirty years later I find I still see the Lenten disciplines of fasting and abstinence as luxuries. I have food to forgo.
9 years 10 months ago
Great blog and I wish that every person was made to watch and understand exactly where that cellophaned package of meat actually comes from and how it was slaughtered. If we are going to eat meat we should treat the animal with respect and kill it humanely. Anyone who eats fois gras or veal should understand that another creature has been caged and force-fed through a miserable existence, never allowed to move, in order to obtain that piece of meat. However, I'm curious if the author and the posters stand by their statements? If they do not eat fish or fowl or dairy, if they do not wear or collect any animal products and if they feed their pets vegan foods? If they fish (even catch and release) or drive a car with leather seats etc? I ask only because I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian most of my adult life but found it impossible to go vegan and find it hard/expensive to find good organic free-range produce for myself and almost impossible to find an affordable vegan food for my pet. That aside, I have often found that vegetarians can be some of the biggest hypocrites who eat fish and fowl and use animal products.
9 years 10 months ago
I am a conservative and I have no problem with eating meat but I can't imagine any person not being outraged and repulsed on visiting a modern slaughterhouse/factory farm/meat-packing plant. We have a responsibility to God's created order to treat it with respect. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches "Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present and future humanity" (n. 2415), and "God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure" (n. 2417). We must all act as good stewards with animals - any misuse of God's creation by causing un-needed suffering, blatant mis-treatment or other abuses of the trust for God's creatures is clearly wrong.
9 years 10 months ago
I am so happy to read this article. It's good to know there are many of us out there that realize the eating, wearing and using of animal products is flat out unnecessary. I will go as far as to say it is just wrong. Using and eating animals benefits no one. The impact they have on the human body is evident in the obese epidemic, cancers, high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc. If you are unsure if meat consumption leads to these problems, check out countries that eat little meat. They do not have the same health problems that are common in the US. The environment is also taking severe blows due to all the animals being grown for human consumption. The thing that bothers me the most is that there are people who can work in those environments. Imagine having to be the ones who drag the cows, ducks, chickens, pigs to their deaths. Animals do not go willingly. They scream and kick and bite, trying to do what anyone of us would do if faced with the same situation. If I treated my dogs the way animals on a daily basis were treated in slaughter houses it would be animal cruelty but inside the slaughter houses it’s humane. Its sad that so many humans choose to overlook these sad facts, but there is evidence here and there, like this article that I am not the only one.
9 years 10 months ago
A good moral case may be made for vegetarian diet on at least a few significant levels. What is most troubling is the sense of entitlement underlying the case for meat consumption. Another example of the American/Western case for rights to the neglect of duties. Mistreatment of animals used for food is another case in which childish opportunists and moneymakers have coopted the culture. I wouldn't presume to tell anyone they couldn't eat meat, but I do think *respect* for what one ingests should be in play here--if for no other reason, than for one's own physical and moral health.
9 years 10 months ago
I've been vegetarian for years - And recently Vegan once exposed to the way these animals are grown in factory farms. Their pitiful lives - denied movement - interaction & socialization; denied even the naturalness of raising/feeding their young. Then after being stuffed into trucks for transport.... do we really thing they are going to be treated "humanely" then? Am reading Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz - The complicity between Westland (or any packing house) and the USDA has been going on for quite sometime (1920's). Corruption has been sanctioned by society and a MEat culture that prefers bliss through ignorance. For health & heart... GO VEGAN!

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